Keeping Score

East Central, Poplarville developing into Class 4A juggernauts

Watch action from East Central’s win over Jefferson Davis County

East Central defeated Jefferson County 31-7 in a face paced game on Friday, September 8, 2017.
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East Central defeated Jefferson County 31-7 in a face paced game on Friday, September 8, 2017.

Aside from Dodd Lee’s stint as the East Central head coach from 1990-95, the Hornets’ football program has mostly been an also-ran in South Mississippi.

Friday night’s 31-7 win over Jefferson Davis County is a score that should grab the attention of football fans state-wide.

The Hornets have been on a steady rise since Seth Smith was hired as head coach prior to the 2013 season. Since going 1-10 in Smith’s first season, the Hornets have gone 5-7, 7-5 and 8-5 over the last three campaigns.

With a 3-0 record so far this season, East Central has already established itself as one of the state’s better Class 4A teams.

Jefferson Davis County (3-1) entered Friday night’s game ranked as the No. 2 team in all of Class 3A by The Associated Press. The school is in its first year following the merger of former Class 2A powerhouse Bassfield and Prentiss.

The Jaguars were dominated in Hurley Friday night, but don’t be surprised if Jeff Davis head coach Lance Mancuso gets his hands on his sixth state title in the last nine years.

East Central is the complete package with an opportunistic defense that is vastly improved over a year ago and an offense that features arguably South Mississippi’s best running back (senior Tony Brown) and receiver (senior Brad Cumbest).

East Central rolled over Jefferson Davis County 31-7 Friday night.

After taking down the No. 2 Class 3A squad, East Central plays host to Class 3A No. 1 Hazlehurst (3-1) this Friday.

East Central is a team built to make a deep postseason run, but Poplarville (4-0) will have plenty to say on who gets out of Class 4A in the South this season.

Hot Hornets

Poplarville again backed up its Sun Herald No. 1 ranking Friday night by going to Perkinston and rallying for a 20-14 win over the No. 4 Stone High Tomcats (2-1).

Senior running back Austin Bolton bolstered his case to be considered South Mississippi’s early season MVP after running for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to lead the Hornets to the victory.

Poplarville scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to beat previously undefeated Stone High 20-14 at A.L. May Stadium in Perkinston.

Greene County (4-0) will bring a tough defense to Poplarville on Sept. 29, but the Hornets should be favored in each of their six remaining regular season games.

The Hornets are more than just Bolton with plenty of talented skill players on offense along with a junior quarterback in Antonio Barnes who runs the offense with ease.

Poplarville is ranked as the No. 1 team in all of Class 4A by The Associated Press while East Central checks in at No. 3. Pontotoc (4-0) is ranked second.

While the potential remains for a surprise, it’s hard to see any team other than Poplarville or East Central making it to Oxford for the Class 4A state title game. Neither program has won a state title.

Poplarville coach Jay Beech breaks down team's 20-14 win at Stone.

Game ball

St. Patrick finally ended its 23-game skid on Sept. 1 with a 33-6 win over Mount Olive. On Friday night, the Irish improved their season mark to 2-1 with an impressive 14-12 win over Pope John Paul II at St. Patrick.

That’s why St. Patrick coach Jim Bloomfield deserves this week’s game ball for putting in the best coaching performance of the week.

Bloomfield built a competitive program at Vancleave and it appears that the pieces are finally starting to come together in his third year on the job at St. Patrick.

St. Patrick will travel to Sacred Heart (2-2) on Friday and it’s hard to bet against the Irish at this point.